THE SCARY-MOVIE TRICK
When I was a little girl, I was afraid to watch scary movies. They gave me bad dreams. They paralyzed me with fear. But when I turned thirteen, I began being invited to go to the movies with my friends. I didn’t want to be left home alone when everyone else was at the theater, so I accepted the invitation, even if something terrifying was on the bill. Sometimes I’d get so frightened by what I was seeing I wanted to bolt from the theater. I stayed in my chair only because I was too embarrassed to show my fear in front of my friends. Eventually I developed a mental trick that helped me to endure even the most frightening movies. I would imagine that the movie screen was just a little bit bigger than it really was, and all around the edges of the picture the film’s crew could be seen doing their jobs. I pictured lighting people standing alongside giant reflectors and klieg lights just beyond the edge of the movie set. I envisioned a soundman holding a big microphone boom in his hands and wearing headphones. I could see the director in his folding chair, and the cameraman right beside him, and a continuity girl with a copy of the script in her hands. All these imaginary crewmembers helped to dissuade my fears by reminding me that what I was seeing was just an illusion.
When I grew up and had two daughters of my own, I passed along my scary-movie trick to them. It allowed them to watch monster movies with their friends without being plagued by the kind of paralyzing fear I used to experience when I was little.
Although neither of my daughters ever finished high school, both have gone on to become hugely successful career women. My eldest, Andrea, owns a company that facilitates real-estate closings by dispatching notaries and document-signing agents to homes and offices across the country. Mary Ann, my youngest, is a wholesale loan representative for Chase Manhattan Bank. Both of my girls are married with children. Each of them is the primary breadwinner for her family. They make their own hours, work from home whenever they choose, and are always able to find time to give to their own children.
I have worked all my life at mid-level office jobs. I have never made much money or been given any huge responsibilities. It amazes me to see how successful Andrea and Mary Ann have become in the business world. Once, when the three of us were having dinner together, I told them I couldn’t understand where they had gotten the fearlessness that has marked their rise up the corporate ladder. It was a huge surprise to me when they both insisted that the scary-movie trick was the secret to their success.
“Whenever I found myself in a challenging situation in the business world,” Mary Ann told me, “I just imagined that I was on a movie set, surrounded by technicians and cameramen and all the rest. If I was applying for a job with some snotty personnel director or being shouted at by an angry client, I just always tried to picture myself as an actress in a scary movie, surrounded by technicians. That’s still how I manage to get through the toughest days at work.”
When Andrea told me that she employed the scary-movie trick in the exact same way, I felt extremely proud. In a small way, my little trick for overcoming fear at the movie theater had helped to make fearless businesswomen of my two daughters.
That’s why I believe in the scary-movie trick, and the power of imaginary film technicians.
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